The importance of scratching, and the turntablist movement it spawned in the 1990s, to the book can’t be underestimated. The practice itself was central to the artistic growth of many of the characters in the story – B+ once put it to me that scratching was a similar rite of passage into hip-hop for a new generation as breakdancing had been before it – and its unspoken purpose, to reclaim the place of the DJ as artist within hip-hop, echoes the rise of the producer in the 2000s.
One of the interludes in the book will look at all this, and ahead of that I put together a brief history of scratching for FACT Magazine. The article gives an idea of what the book will touch on.
Turntablism emerged in the 1990s as an answer to the DJ’s disappearance from hip-hop, a movement in support of the original amendment that the DJ was hip-hop’s first artist. But you can never go back, and so scratching became a gateway into hip-hop for new generations, inspiring them to think outside of the box and seek new ways to create.
Throughout the 2000s, turntablists dispersed into various corners of the electronic music world. A-Trak became Kanye West’s tour DJ and turned him onto Daft Punk before going on to build his Fool’s Gold empire. Fellow Allies member DJ Craze moved into drum & bass. In the UK, Ninja Tune picked up Japan’s DJ Kentaro following his 2002 DMC title. A few years later, a young Scottish kid by the name of Itchy, the youngest DJ to enter the UK DMC, renamed himself Hudson Mohawke and struck a deal with Warp in 2008. Back in California, Daddy Kev set up Low End Theory in 2006 and soon brought on board D-Styles as a resident, following years of collaborations with the local turntablist scene. In January 2014, after more than a decade in retirement, the ISP reunited for a performance at Low End.